|||[Boldly Going]|||Star Trek: The Original Series – Season 1: Ep. 1.3 “Where No Man Has Gone Before” – (original air date 9/22/1966)

TrekWhereNoMan

 

Welcome to my rewatching of the original 79 episodes of the series that launched the franchise. Below are the bulletpointed notes I jotted down while watching “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”

  • The Enterprise picks up the distress signal of an Earth vessel that’s been missing for two centuries. Kirk and Spock are playing three-dimensional chess again. Kirk is distracted because he’s waiting for news from the bridge that they’ve reached the source of the distress signal.
  • Spock says he’ll win the game in one more move. Kirk says that Spock plays an irritating game of chess.
  • Irritating? Ah, yes. One of your earth emotions,” says Spock. The Vulcan is half-smiling as he says this, which is just wrong, as any Trekkie knows. Also “irritating” is an adjective, not a noun.
  • Wrong also describes the uniforms tunics that Kirk and Spock are wearing. They are both gold and tan, and look like sweaters to me. We never see them again after this episode.
  • Even though this was the third episode aired, I know it was, in fact, the second pilot, after “The Cage” (which was reworked into a frame story in “The Menagerie, Parts 1 & 2”). I guess I should expect to see and hear things that don’t jibe with my memory of classic Star Trek.
  • Case in point: Spock’s comment that “one of his ancestors” married a human female. That ancestor would have been Sarek, his father. One would have to assume that having Spock’s mother be a human was a later retcon and not the original plan.
  • The bridge finally calls and says the object is within tractor beam range. The crewman calling is Mr. Kelso. He says the object is too small to be a vessel, measuring only about one meter in diameter.
  • Spock remarks that this isn’t even large enough for a “life boat.” He meant “escape pod,” of course.
  • Kirk tells Mr. Kelso to beam it aboard.
  • Scotty is operating the controls in the transporter room. Yay! This is our first time meeting Scotty in the series. He’s wearing a milk-chocolate brown sweater tunic. The uniforms are just wrong. Have I said that already?
  • Kirk says the object is an old-style ship’s recorder ejected when something threatened the ship. Like an airplane’s black box (usually painted bright orange—I don’t know why it’s called “black”). Kirk decides to run the recorder’s “tapes” through Mr. Spock’s computer.
  • Kirk orders all decks put on alert while the recorder is transmitting its data.
  • And then, roll opening credit sequence with the famous Shatner monologue and the theme music that makes me think of Frank DeVol, even though I know it was composed by Alexander Courage.
  • The crew of the Enterprise are all reporting to their stations after Kirk called the red alert. The corridors look wrong, the camera angles look wrong, the shadows look wrong, the turbolift looks wrong. Your Honor, I will stipulate that everything looks wrong and try not to comment on it any further.
  • Lt. Commander Gary Mitchell gets into the turbolift with Kirk and Spock just as the doors are hissing shut. He makes a joke about Mr. Kelso sounding nervous on the bridge.
  • Incidentally, Mitchell is wearing a uniform tunic the same shade of brown as Scotty’s. It looks . . . just great.
  • Also, whenever I hear them say “Kelso,” I can’t help but think that Ashton Kutcher is on the bridge of the Enterprise. This is, thankfully, Kelso’s only appearance on Star Trek, and I’m almost grateful that Gary Mitchell murders him later.
  • Oh, yeah. SPOILERS. Can you really spoil a fifty-year-old television episode?
  • Mitchell takes Mr. Alden’s place at the helm. Mr. Alden is a black crewmember who is also never seen again, even though I think he survives the episode.
  • Uhura doesn’t appear in this episode. There seems to be a bridge quota for black actors.
  • In this scene, the Enterprise is approaching the edge of the Milky Way galaxy, about to cross over where we believe no man has gone before. I guess this is the reason for the red-alert. I thought it was because we were downloading information from the captured ship’s recorder. Kirk orders Mitchell to “neutralize warp,” bringing the ship to a full stop here at the edge of the galaxy.
  • If we’re at the edge of the galaxy, we shouldn’t be seeing all of those stars in the front viewscreen, should we? Or maybe each of those “stars” represents the light from distant galaxies and not individual suns. I’ve blown my own mind.
  • Kirk orders Mitchell to “address intercraft,” which apparently means a ship-wide broadcast. Mitchell does this with a casual sweep of the edge of his hand that seems very modern when everything else still seems quite analog in the Star Trek world.
  • Kirk announces that they picked up a disaster recorder launched from the SS Valiant two hundred years ago. Kirk wants to find out what the Valiant was doing there and what destroyed the vessel. These seem to be good things to know before going further.
  • I don’t know who that blond woman standing behind Kirk’s chair is.
  • Lt. Commander Mitchell announces that the department heads are now present, and that Kirk had said he wanted everybody on the bridge before they left the galaxy. He must have said that off-screen or during the opening credits. I don’t remember that. Or, it could have been a standing order he issued weeks or even months prior.
  • Kirk calls the woman behind him Jones. She corrects him and says her name is Smith. I still don’t know who she is. Besides Smith, I mean.
  • I also don’t know why this feels like Kirk is meeting his department heads for the first time. I know that, in theory, the audience is, but shouldn’t Kirk already know them, as well as which departments they are the heads of? He doesn’t even know Smith’s name. She’s not a department head, though. I’m reasonably sure of this.
  • Sulu, who we met in the last episode playing with plants, tells Kirk that Astro Sciences is standing by. I guess Astro Sciences is also in charge of weirdly hand-puppet-like plants.
  • Scotty, who we just saw operating the transporter in the earlier scene, announces that the Engineering Division is as ready as always. At least this is consistent. Scotty is an engineer.
  • Someone who is definitely not DeForest Kelley says that Life Sciences is ready. Then he introduces Dr. Dehner, who joined the ship at the Aldeberaan colony. You would think that the ship’s captain would have already met her, but I must be willing to suspend my disbelief. Her field is psychiatry, and she casually announces that her assignment is to study crew reactions in emergency conditions.
  • Spock says that he’s getting something from the Valiant‘s recorder. Dr. Dehner announces that she would be interested in how that crew reacted as well, if it was an emergency situation. Gary Mitchell tries to flirt with the head doctor, but is deftly rejected. As Dr. Dehner crosses the bridge again to stand with the department heads (all of whom are standing weirdly close to one another to fit into the shot), Mitchell comments that she’s a “walking freezer unit.”
  • Remember: This was over five decades ago, my friends. Casual sexism, racism . . . bigotry and discrimination of any type, really . . . were the norm, not the exception.
  • Memory Alpha, my main internet source for all things Trek, tells me that the pretty blonde who is Smith-not-Jones is Kirk’s yeoman. The proto-Yeoman Rand, in other words. She’s nothing but set dressing in this scene.
  • Spock interprets the recordings. The SS Valiant was swept up in a magnetic storm that drew them in this general direction. They were thrown about a half-lightyear out of the galaxy. The recordings are badly damaged, but Spock says it sounds like the ship had encountered some unknown force. This was followed by repeated requests from the ship’s computer records for anything concerning ESP in human beings.
  • Dr. Dehner seems to have some knowledge on the subject of ESP. In fact, she says, she herself tested pretty high in “Esper” abilities.
  • Several of the crewmen aboard the Valiant died, but one came back to life, apparently. And, then, yadda-yadda-yadda, the captain ordered the ship’s self-destruction.
  • Even after hearing all this, Kirk decides it’s time to leave the galaxy anyway. He orders Mitchell to take them out, warp factor one.
  • The ship encounters a mysterious energy field. Mitchell holds Yeoman Smith’s hand, which I thought was an odd choice.
  • Lt. Commander Mitchell and Dr. Dehner are both zapped by some sort of energy discharge. Both fall motionless to the deck of the bridge.
  • The ship leaves the energy field. The engines are currently inoperable and Spock reports nine crewmen dead. That’s a lot. Mitchell and Dehner aren’t dead, however.
  • When Gary Mitchell comes to, he has glowing silver eyes. Oh, no. More weird eye stuff, just like in “Charlie X.” Does this mean Mitchell has godlike powers, too? Yeah, you know it does. In hindsight, this is an odd episode to air immediately following the similarly themed “Charlie X.”
  • Roddenberry was obsessed with beings possessing godlike powers. After all, he was the creator of Q as well.
  • After the act break, Kirk tells us that the ship is travelling on impulse power only now. Earth bases that were only days away are now years in the distance.
  • Turns out all of the casualties from the encounter with the energy field tested high for ESP abilities, just like Dr. Dehner. It turns out that Gary Mitchell tested highest of all.
  • Kirk goes to visit Mitchell in sickbay. It seems these two have known each other for a long time. Mitchell says he’s using his time in sickbay to catch up on some reading, including some of that “longhair” stuff that Kirk likes. Mitchell says that back at the Academy one of the upperclassmen warned him to watch out for “Lieutenant” Kirk, in his class you either “think or sink.” Which implies that Kirk was an instructor at the academy. Mitchell also calls Kirk a stack of books with legs.
  • A hint of Mitchell’s natural cruelty shines through when he admits that he sent a little blond lab technician Kirk’s way in order to get Kirk off his back at the Academy. Mitchell even admits to outlining her entire campaign for her. Kirk seems genuinely shocked, and a bit angry, when he says, “I almost married her!” That’s cruel.
  • Mitchell warns Kirk that he’d better be good to him. He’s getting even better ideas while lying in sickbay. After hearing that Kirk plans to have Dr. Dehner keep him under observation for a while, Mitchell reminds Kirk in a temporarily amplified voice (read: godlike) that he said Kirk should be good to him.
  • Something’s not right about Gary Mitchell.
  • After Kirk leaves, Mitchell continues to read off of his computer screen. He’s reading at a rate that I don’t think we see again until Data is on board the Enterprise-D. Spock monitors this unusual behavior from the bridge. Kirk orders a 24-hour watch on sickbay by security and the fullest range of examinations and tests. As Kirk watches the monitor, Mitchell looks directly at the camera as if he can also see Kirk. Creepy, especially with those Village of the Damned eyes.
  • While Dr. Dehner visits Mitchell, he demonstrates an ability to control all of his monitor readings at will. He even “dies” for almost 22 seconds and returns. The doctor then tests Mitchell’s ability to recall everything he’s been speed-reading. He’s able to recite a love sonnet that Dehner picks, seemingly at random.
  • Lee Kelso also visits while Dr. Dehner is there. Mitchell sees a faulty engine part in Kelso’s mind, something that Kelso saw himself but didn’t recognize at the time. Kelso checks and discovers that Mitchell is correct.
  • In the briefing room, Mitchell is the main topic of discussion. Spock says that the subject in sickbay is not Gary Mitchell. The concern is what he’s mutating into. Dr. Dehner doesn’t believe that Mitchell poses a threat. She describes the powers she’s seen him manifest. Mr. Scott reports that, about an hour ago, the bridge controls started going crazy, levers shifting by themselves, buttons being pushed. Spock adds that each time it happened, he could see Mitchell on his monitor screen smiling, as if the ship and its crew were “a toy for his amusement.”
  • Dr. Dehner says that a mutated superior man could also be a wonderful thing. The forerunner of a new and better kind of human being. I’m getting a Nazi-chick vibe from the good doctor at the moment.
  • Mr. Sulu puts things in mathematical terms. He says Mitchell’s powers are increasing geometrically. He makes the analogy of starting with a penny and doubling it every day, and by the end of the month you’re a millionaire. Spock warns that, even before that time, the rest of the crew will not only be useless to Mitchell, but an annoyance.
  • After everyone else is dismissed, Spock hangs back and recommends that they detour to Delta Vega, a planet a few light-days away from their current position. It has a lithium cracking system that they may be able to adapt to power their systems. Spock is also suggesting that they strand Mitchell there. Kirk is against this idea. There’s no one else on the planet and the ore ships come only every 20 years.
  • Spock suggests an alternate, coldly logical plan: Kill Mitchell while they still can.
  • Kirk is emotionally torn by this, but by the next act break, he’s made his decision to set their course for Delta Vega.
  • We could really use the deus ex machina of a floating giant green head to take Mitchell away, but that’s not how this one plays out.
  • Mitchell begins exhibiting increasing telekinetic abilities. When Kirk, Spock and Dr. Dehner come into sickbay, he knows that they intend to abandon him on Delta Vega. Spock and Kirk manage to hold him down while Dehner shoots him full of tranquilizers. The main ship doctor, who is not “Bones” McCoy, gives him an additional dose at the transporter.
  • On Delta Vega, Kirk asks Lee Kelso to rig up a destruct switch to the fuel bins. Why? I guess we’ll find out.
  • Mitchell is kept locked up behind a force field. He attempts to force his way through the force field, which drains his energy and returns his eyes to normal, but only for a couple of seconds. Mitchell says he will continue to get stronger, and we have no reason to doubt him.
  • The plan to repower the ship is working, and Scotty beams down a phaser rifle to Mr. Spock on the planet. I don’t think we ever see the phaser rifle again in the series. I’ll keep an eye out for it.
  • Kirk tells Lee Kelso that if Mitchell escapes from his cell and Kelso believes he has no other recourse, he should press the button to destroy the fuel tanks. He just gave Kelso an order to kill himself if it will save the rest of the crew.
  • The landing party has almost completely beamed back aboard the Enterprise. Kirk wants Dr. Piper—I think this is first time un-Bones is namechecked—to meet them in the control room with Kelso, so that they can beam up together.
  • Dr. Dehner has decided to stay on Delta Vega with Mitchell.
  • Back in the control room, Kelso sits on the destruct button and is on the communicator with Scotty when Mitchell uses his power to strangle Kelso with some loose cable. I warned you that he was getting murdered. That makes 10 killed this episode, I think.
  • Then Mitchell easily escapes from his cell, converting Dr. Dehner to one of the silver-eyed people after zapping Spock and Kirk.
  • Dr. Piper discovers Kirk and Spock. Kirk is revived by the doc. He orders Dr. Piper—whom he calls Mark—to beam up to the ship with the still-unconscious Spock. If they do not hear from him within 12 hours, the ship is to proceed at maximum warp to the nearest starbase with his recommendation that Delta Vega be dosed with a lethal concentration of neutron radiation.
  • Mitchell and Dehner begin exploring the planet, with Mitchell using his godlike powers to begin creating plant life and water sources, creating their own Garden of Eden. Dehner is still becoming, so she doesn’t have Mitchell’s powers yet.
  • Kirk stalks the pair with his phaser rifle in hand.
  • Mitchell knows he’s there, of course. He seems unconcerned.
  • Mitchell creates Kaferian apples. More Garden of Eden imagery.
  • Mitchell sends Dehner out to talk to Kirk. She warns Kirk to go back while he still can. Kirk appeals to whatever humanity remains inside Dr. Dehner.
  • When Mitchell shows up, Kirk shoots him with the phaser rifle but it has no effect. Mitchell creates a grave for Kirk, with a headstone that reads “James R. Kirk,” which is wrong, of course. Then he starts to cause a rockfall to kill his old friend.
  • Kirk keeps working on Dehner. Using his words.
  • Mitchell forces Kirk to his knees to get him to pray to him before he dies.
  • In the end, I think it’s Kirk’s appeal to Dehner’s own sense of self-preservation that causes her to act. Mitchell and Dehner begin zapping each other until Mitchell’s eyes go all normal again.
  • Kirk and Mitchell have a very wild west fistfight, which Kirk wins only after using the phaser rifle to entomb his old friend in the grave that had been meant for him.
  • Afterwards, Kirk is at Dr. Dehner’s side as she dies, succumbing to her wounds from her own battle with Mitchell. This episode’s death toll now stands at 12.
  • Back on the bridge of the Enterprise, Kirk makes sure that the record reflects that both Dehner and Mitchell died in the line of service. He tells Spock that Mitchell didn’t ask for what happened to him. When Spock says he felt for him, too (a very un-Vulcan-like statement), Kirk says that maybe there’s hope for Spock yet.

Even with all of its flaws and the fact that the story is very similar to “Charlie X,” I’ve always liked “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” It’s not the Star Trek that I necessarily think of when I think about the classic series, and it hits many notes that seem false and jarring during this rewatch, but it’s still a good science-fiction episode. Okay, since it’s about ESP, maybe a pseudo-science-fiction episode, but still entertaining.

I’m giving this one a 3.5 of 5 stars, subtracting half a point for the gold and brown sweaters and the “James R. Kirk” headstone. See you next time.

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